All business leaders work hard to avoid mistakes, but if a mistake is made, recovering is possible and can be enlightening.
I'd like to share a real life story involving Mary (not her real name), the owner of a small, specialty store in a small, southern town. Mary has owned her store for over 15 years. Last year she moved into a beautiful, bigger, building that she designed, built and owns. She loves her store because it reflects her open, embracing, encouraging personality and it offers her customers a more pleasant place to shop.
Mary built a larger store because she wants to sell more apparel; in fact, her goal was to double her apparel sales. Mary made this audacious goal with confidence because her store is beautiful, her customers love her, she has great taste and the new products would be wonderful. So in January Mary placed large apparel orders to fill the new store. Well as you might have guessed, sales over the summer were not as robust as Mary expected and now her winter orders have begun to arrive.
Mary had built her goal around some basic assumptions; she believed that her customers wanted more apparel selection, that they would respond to the new store by buying more apparel and that her merchandising would make her apparel irresistible. And her foundational goal was that her loyal customers would resist the new reality in retail and buy her apparel at full price.
Because apparel sales had not increased in the new store, it was clear that Mary had made a big mistake. And this led Mary to question her fundamental assumptions and her basic business competence. Maybe she overestimated how loyal her customers really were, maybe she doesn't know how to buy apparel, maybe she isn't merchandising her apparel well, and on and on. In fact, was this mistake tangible evidence that Mary didn't know what she was doing?Mary's confidence was so undermined that she had trouble seeing beyond the full shelves. Yes, she had overestimated her community's appetite for apparel, especially apparel selling at full price. But, by looking at the situation in another way, she saw a different outcome. Mary had created a beautiful store, full of inviting apparel and staffed by wonderful, helpful, knowledgeable employees. She showed that she was fully committed to offering the best to her community, that she wants to showcase great products in an inviting and exciting space, and that she was willing to place a big bet on herself. Her biggest mistake wasn't in buying too much inventory, it was in allowing that to become the measure of her business acumen.
Actually, her store is a perfect reflection of her personality; live the dream, invest in yourself, value beauty and wonderful things and live big. And while she did make a mistake, she can recover. Mary will convert her inventory into cash and she will continue to offer wonderful product, in a beautiful space to loyal happy customers (who like are lucky to buy great inventory on sale this year). Mary may have bought too much inventory, but she sent a strong message to her customers and her employees; live big, take a chance, keep on going and some mistakes can teach you a lot.